Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Utter Hypocrisy of Almas Jiwani, President of UN Women – Canada, Participating in the Crans Montana Forum in Western Sahara

Of the hundreds of participants at the Crans Montana Forum in the illegally occupied territory of Western Sahara (March 12-14), few get my goat like Almas Jiwani, President & CEO of UN Women – Canada (UNWNCC).

The hypocrisy of this woman is astounding. Her UNWNCC bio would have us believe that she is a saint. UNWNCC is one of the “National Committees for UN Women” that “are independent non-governmental organizations that support the mission of UN Women, which “is the women’s body at the United Nations, dedicated to advancing women’s rights and achieving gender equality.” According to UNWNCC:  Jiwani is a “fiercely vocal and internationally renowned champion for gender equality and women’s social, economic, and political empowerment”; she is a “model of perseverance and determination” whose “efforts to strengthen women’s economic capacity as entrepreneurs and producers has earned her accolades”; she is a “powerful and influential speaker and she has travelled across the globe to deliver keynote addresses, speeches, and presentations on improving the status of women“  ; she “made history as a state visitor in Pakistan when she addressed one million women on gender inequality” ; She “has gained international recognition and recommendations from governments and the media” ; she “has been honored with numerous Awards globally for her work on gender equity and women’s empowerment.” The superlatives never end.
A UNWNCC Press Release on March 9, 2015 announced that she would be speaking on gender equality at the Crans Montana Forum in Dakhla on March 13, 2015, in a panel discussion on African women in business and politics at The Special Meeting of African Women. This was to be her second year speaking at the Crans Montana Forum.
On the same day as the UNWNCC press release, the Secretary General of the Saharawi National Union of Women (UNMS), Ms. Fatma El-Mehdi, wrote a long letter to Jiwani from the Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria requesting that she “abstain from taking part in this forum in the occupied city of Dajla, which will only complicate the situation on the ground and fuel more tension in the region.” The letter goes into great detail on the illegality of Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara under international law, on the International  Court of Justice’s opinion that Morocco held no sovereignty over the territory, on the lack of any international recognition of Morocco’s forceful annexation of of the territory, on Morocco’s systematic violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in its violent totalitarian occupation, on the “growing list of nations, regional organisations and non-governmental organisations from around the world” that had announced that they would not attend the Forum, and on the opposition of the African Union and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR)to Crans Montana meeting in Dakhla.

At around the same time that the head of the Saharawi National Union of Women was appealing to Jiwani to abstain from participating in the Forum, several organizations in the occupied territory also directed letters in opposition to the holding of the Crans Montana event in Dakhla.  On February 9, CODESA (the Collective of Saharawi Human Rights Defenders) directed a letter to the Crans Montana Forum urging cancellation of their event; on March 10, the “components of the civil society in the occupied territories of Western Sahara” directed a message to the participants, calling on them to “to participate in [their] condemnation and boycott of the Crans Montana Forum.” Given that women have long been in the forefront of Sahrawi resistance to the Moroccan occupation, many of these Sahrawi organizations from the occupied territories are women’s groups or women-led.  The president of CODESA, Aminatou Haidar, has been for years the most internationally-recognized Sahrawi human rights activist and advocate of Western Saharan independence.  Among the many varied civil society groups that signed the “components of the civil society” letter can be found Forum Avenir pour la Femme Sahraouie, Observatoire Sahraoui D’Enfant et De La Femme, and Comité des Mères des 15 Portés Disparus Sahraouis.
The point of this article is that Almas Jiwani, President & CEO of UN Women – Canada, completely ignored all these appeals by Sahrawi women’s groups (both in the occupied territory and the refugee camps) for a boycott and cancellation of the Crans Montana Forum in Dakhla. Take a visit to Crans Montana Forum’s home page, and scroll down the many photos from the Dakhla event and you will find her mug shot as she gives her speech (please note here that Crans Montana Forum has removed her photo). It is totally abhorrent that this woman who claims to champion the rights of women and gender equality should show up in Dakhla to spit in the faces of the proud and empowered Sahrawi women of Western Sahara and to collude with Morocco’s King Mohammed VI in the illegal occupation of their land. Yes, Jiwani is a hypocrite beyond words. I urge all who read this to confront her about all this either at one of her numbers or addresses (see the UN Women page for National Committees) or at one of the innumerable events around the world where she speaks. And finally I urge the Board of UN Women – Canada to fire her. She is so proud of her insulting unethical junket to Dakhla, Western Sahara, as representative of UN Women – Canada that she appears to have forgotten to include it among the “News & Events” on her website. So much for transparency.

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